Sakana

Special thanks to Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Located at the intersection between Penang Road (Jalan Penang) and Hutton Lane (Jalan Hutton), Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine has been operating over a year now. The storefront features a large red signboard with two koi (鯉) fish, giving the befitting name "Sakana", which means "fish" (魚) in Japanese.
Sakana has undergone significant operational restructuring recently, particularly with the recruitment of a new head chef. With decades of kitchen experience in high-end Japanese restaurants such as Edo Ichi (江戸一) and Kirishima (霧島), the new head chef has been brought in to revamp the food menu from scratch. Diners can expect to see several exotic dishes which are usually unavailable in all but the finest Japanese establishments.
The air-conditioned dining section of Sakana is spacious yet well-decorated with various ornaments. A sushi conveyor belt (回転) at the center encompasses the kitchen. Food preparation, whether grilling or sushi-shaping, is done in plain view of diners. This is the Japanese approach to showcase hygienic and fresh food preparation.
The menu philosophy adopted by Sakana's new head chef is by offering several novel delicacies such as aburi maki (炙り巻き) in addition to mainstream Japanese dishes that most people have known and loved. We had the special privilege of the company of Mr. Alex, the managing director of Sakana, who provided us helpful recommendations on Sakana's signature dishes.
Our gastronomic session commences with an appetizer of Watari Gani & Salmon Skin Salad (ワタリガニと鮭の皮サラダ, RM18.00). Deep-frying into lovely crispy chunks, the soft-shelled crab (ワタリガニ) and salmon skin (鮭の皮) are the perfect delicacy to jump-start our palate.
Despite being an appetizer, the serving is sufficiently large for three or more diners. Salmon skin is usually discarded during sushi and sashimi preparation, therefore it is delightful to witness how Sakana turning it into a delicacy. This salad is certainly highly recommended.
The salad comes with a dip made from white sesame seeds. The roasted, ground seeds are blended with Japanese mayonnaise, soy sauce and rice vinegar, yielding a creamy and tangy paste which serves as a splendid dip for the crab and salmon skin.
Our next dish is the Deluxe Assorted Roast Sushi (デラックスな炙り寿司の盛り合わせ, RM40.00), an assorted platter of various nigirizushi (握り寿司) that are served in pairs. Unlike regular raw sushi, the toppings of aburi sushi (炙り寿司) are partially cooked by briefly torching each piece before serving.
Unagi (鰻) or freshwater eel is a nice treat. Seasoned thoroughly, the eel flesh is soft and virtually melts like butter in the mouth.
Another familiar sushi topping is ebi (海老) or shrimp. The shrimp toppings are in turn covered with a slice of cheese and a dash of mayonnaise dressing.
The kamo (鴨) or duck sushi is one of my favorite, having a succulent flavor which permeates the entire duck flesh. The teriyaki dressing also blends harmoniously with the duck and sushi rice.
Not willing to be outshone, the salmon (鮭) sushi line-up are also lovely on its own right. I must commend Sakana for its fresh salmon which gives the fish a rich, fatty sensation. There are three types of dressings on top of the lovely salmon slices.
Mustard and shrimp roe are certainly decent, but my personal favorite toppings for the salmon are cheese and mayonnaise. I love the sensation of partially molten cheese on top of the fatty salmon slices!
Still in the sushi department, we moved on to indulge a fine serving of Salmon Aburi Maki (鮭炙り巻き, RM20.00). This makizushi (巻き寿司) or rolled sushi is prepared with help of a bamboo mat (巻簾). Like the previous dish, the salmon slices are partially cooked with a blowtorch. I like the juicy sensation of raw salmon flesh immediately underneath the thin cooked layer.
For poultry, the Chicken Teriyaki (チキン照り焼き, RM13.00) is our choice of the day. Unlike teriyaki-style cooking in most Japanese restaurants, Sakana's version is distinctively different. Instead of using a thin chicken fillet which usually gives crispy outcome, Sakana uses a thicker cutting so that there is still "white meat" inside. This is a risky maneuver because the challenge is to cook the interior without over-doing the exterior. It turns out that Sakana's chef knows his trade well to deliver a perfect dish.
While the chicken fillet is moderately crispy on the outside, the inner section remains juicy and smooth in texture. Served with a nice concoction of house-special teriyaki sauce, this gratifying dish can be addictive and is indeed highly recommended in my opinion.
Our culinary journey continues with an order of Gyuniku Teriyaki (牛肉照り焼き, RM18.00), the beef version of the previous dish. This thin slice of boneless beef is grilled on a teppan (鉄板) until it becomes golden-brown in color, then served with sweet teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds. Although this dish is fairly decent in taste, I recommend that you opt for the Chicken Teriyaki if you have limited stomach space.
The Kamo Teriyaki (鴨照り焼き, RM18.00) is another special order, considering its pleasant appearance in the sushi platter just now. The duck is seasoned thoroughly and barbecued to a shiny, appealing appearance. The result flavor is simply exquisite without parallel. Once again, I recommend that you put the Kamo Teriyaki on your must-try list.
Just when we thought that the chef has revealed his hand for the day, we are again pleasantly surprised by another novelty dish: Butaniku Enoki Maki (豚肉榎巻き, RM14.00). Thin slices of lean pork is used as "skin" to roll bite-size bundles of enoki mushrooms (榎茸) in the center. To our delight, the mushrooms blend harmoniously with pork. We must once again give a thumbs-up to this indulging delicacy.
Moving on, our next dish to sample is the Chicken Katsu Curry (チキンかつカレー, RM16.00). Unlike local or Indian versions, Japanese curry is generally milder and feels more "starchy". The chicken fillet is not cooked with the curry gravy. Instead, the chicken is breaded and deep-fried first, then served with gravy on top.
The curry gravy serves to neutralize the drier chicken fillet, while giving some flavors to the otherwise-plainer chicken. On its own, I think the curry is fairly well-prepared. A bowl of white rice would have been ideal to go with it.
Last but not least, we ordered the Yaki Soba (焼き蕎麦, RM15.00) from the noodles section of the menu. This dish of fried buckwheat noodles (蕎麦) is served with generous portions of seafood. The noodles are then topped with fine bonito shavings (鰹節), unlike the coarser versions used in other restaurants.
The Yaki Soba is reasonably nice, but the real heroes are the fresh seafood ingredients: shrimps, squid and fish. The shrimps are particularly juicy and crunchy, which is the hallmark of fresh seafood.
The waiting staff at Sakana is very professional and attentive to our needs. In fact, our tea cups are constantly kept full throughout the extended feasting session.
Like many downtown businesses, parking is often a hassle. As a workaround, Sakana provides free parking at the multi-storey public car park across Hutton Lane. Just bring the parking ticket to Sakana for validation during your visit.
The verdict: Food quality and freshness at Sakana Bar & Cuisine have improved significantly since our last visit. The new food menu includes a number of special dishes such as Butaniku Enoki Maki and Watari Gani & Salmon Skin Salad. Pricing is comparable to Sakae Sushi for equivalent dishes. But while Sakae Sushi's food ingredients (such as sauces) has been "pre-prepared" by suppliers, Sakana prepares nearly all ingredients from scratch on a daily basis.

Name: Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine
Address: 252, Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 013-946-9796
Business hours: 12:00pm-11:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sakana-sushi-bar-and-cuisine/147047928794150
Coordinates: 5.41887 N, 100.33156 E
Directions: Drive along the one-way Jalan Hutton towards Jalan Penang. Located halfway between the intersection with Jalan Transfer and with Jalan Penang, car park is available in the green multi-storey building on the left. Sakana at the intersection with Jalan Penang, on the right side of Jalan Hutton.

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